SUSPENSION by Robert Westfield


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Gay-bashing, 9/11, free-floating paranoia and fanaticism make pretty grim ingredients for a comedy, however dark, but this ambitious debut ably wrests smart laughs from terror.

Take-out cartons and dirty socks pile up, but Andy Green won’t leave his Big Apple apartment. And who can blame him? Months before, he’d been rendered pulp; his sister’s fiancé, a klutzy magician from Texas, got it even worse—the pair were victims, they suppose, of a hate crime. Westfield, a playwright and New York tour guide, makes Green very much the mod gay Manhattanite, with his quirky low-wage job penning multiple-choice tests, his exotic, histrionic gal pal, the ultra-Russian Sonia, and his dashing sugar daddy, princely philanthropist Brad. Refugee from both Maryland and a vengeful, Bible-spouting mom, Andy’s drunk on the city, and some of the best writing here comes in the form of a Twin Towers elegy: bitter railing at touristy kitsch that exploits the tragedy, wistful yearning for what was lost. The cataclysm provides the psychic centerpiece—after the planes crash, Andy’s world dive-bombs. The story crosses whodunit—unraveling the mystery behind Andy’s attack, as well as uncovering the murderous past of a tour guide who menaces Green—and comedy of manners, offering a hip catalogue of urban misadventure and malaise. Creaky comic staples—mistaken identities, a major plot point hinging on Sonia’s mispronunciations—intrude, but Westfield keeps things moving with snappy dialogue and wry character descriptions (his sister, for example, is a Sex and the City wannabe, “hence the sex talk, the shopping, the shawl, the never having enough shoes”). As in French farce, an awful lot happens—Brad’s disappearance, Andy’s re-emergence from his “cave,” his sister’s run-in, in a mouse outfit, with a pizzeria manager—and the frantic pace feels very up-to-the-New-York-minute.

A head-spinning romp, a bit overstuffed with twists and turns.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-06-074137-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2006